Building a love of Baltimore structures

Outside: sports, activities, events

October 07, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Thanks perhaps to popular culture, Baltimore is often thought of as a gritty postindustrial haven. It is seen as a "real" city, architecturally dominated by rowhouses fronted by Formstone.

This is an image that local architects want to dismantle, and a group of them has put together the city's first Architecture Week to highlight some of the city's underappreciated structures.

Baltimore Architecture Week, which starts Saturday and goes through Oct. 16, will feature lectures, a screening of the architecture-heavy film Wings of Desire at the Charles, annual design awards and a Beaux-Arts Ball.

It also includes a series of neighborhood walking tours designed to emphasize the familiar and the forgotten buildings of Baltimore. Each tour costs $10 and will be roughly 90 minutes.

"People, not only in Baltimore, but in other cities, underestimate the architecture we have here," said Anne Raines, who is a founder and co-chairwoman of the event. "We need to look at it and appreciate it."

Raines included the walking tours after learning about New York's architecture week, in which many of that city's buildings open up for the public. Other cities, including Washington and Chicago, hold similar events.

"We have a pretty good example of every type of architectural style," said Walter Schamu, the president of SMG Architects, who will give a tour of downtown Baltimore starting at noon Saturday. "There is classical, modernism, neoclassist, second empire in the City Hall, neo-Egyptian, colonial revival in the Alex. Brown building. You name a style of architecture, and you can find it here."

Schamu has led similar tours, and he likes to start at his favorite Baltimore building: the Bank of America Building at 10 Light St. He calls it "Baltimore's premiere art-deco building" and wants people to see the murals, mosaics and ironwork inside.

"There is a lot going on in the downtown that the public should see and be aware of," he said.

This includes the old garment district on the city's west side. A tour of that area will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Another tour focuses on Fells Point and will highlight the rowhouses the neighborhood is known for.

But architect Tom Terranova, who will lead the tour starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, said the warehouses there are of particular interest. One of his favorites is Henderson's Wharf. "The brickwork on that building is spectacular with arches," he said. "You can tell how substantial the building is."

Baltimore Architecture Week also will remind people of beauty in less well-known neighborhoods - like Lafayette Square.

"A lot of people who grew up here don't know where it is," said David H. Gleason, who will lead that neighborhood tour at 1 p.m. Sunday. "It is this wonderful collection of late Victorian Baltimore architecture - brick rowhouses with the cornices, beautiful churches on the square, three major churches on the square."

Union Square is another off-the-beaten-path neighborhood that will be highlighted Sunday. "When people think of rowhouses in Baltimore, they think of two-story rowhouses," said Besty Nix, who lives on Union Square and will give the tour at 3 p.m. Sunday. "Ours are much more like Bolton Hill rowhouses."

Each of these areas includes buildings worth examining, worth a second look. "Building things is a way of saying we have faith in this place, we're going to put something permanent here we are going to stay," said Raines. "I think building is an act of optimism and that is what we hope to share with people."

To learn more about Architecture Week, including a listing of all events visit www.baltimorearchitecture week.com. Call 410-625-2585 to make reservations for the walking tours and find out where each one starts.

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